In a bid to reduce the spread of the Corona virus, Uganda took different measures to protect its citizens. These measures included a lockdown of the country in Mid March 2020. Some measures under the lockdown include closing the operations of businesses including offices, restaurants, shops, as well as restrictions in movements of public and private vehicles. Others include mandatory wearing of masks in public, closure of school and a dusk to dawn curfew among others. The country also closed its boarders, including all air, land and water entry points, with an exception of cargo trucks as well as cargo and humanitarian flights.
The lockdown has taken a toll on the economy as well as other social sectors. All businesses, regardless of size, are facing serious challenges with a real threat of significant declines in revenue, insolvencies and job losses in specific sectors. In fact by 22 nd April 2020, 4200 companies in Uganda had shut down as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown citing failure to maintain the workers and other Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that were issued by President and the Ministry of health requiring the factories to keep staff on site if they were to continue operating during
- The business climate index published by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) found that in the event that COVID-19 persists for the next six months, 3.8 million workers would lose their jobs temporarily while 625,957 would lose their employment permanently.
- Accordingly, the already the development challenge of unemployment is worsening during this period and the poverty levels will also sky rocket. Subsequently there has been increase in labour disputes due to the unlawful terminations and layoffs by employers, unpaid wages, evictions from work place housing facilitates without terminal benefits, repatriation claims among others. Vulnerable groups including women, children, older persons, and people with disabilities have borne the brunt of the social and cultural prohibitions. Some of the impacts of COVID-19 include:
- There is perceived and real discrimination in the prevention and response mechanisms instilled by government in addressing the virus. Many children, persons with disabilities, and older persons are unable to access the right information about COVID-19.
- There is a clear absence of government’s social protection intervention: during the entire lockdown period, older persons on the SAGE program have not received their cash transfer; there has not been any specific financial or material intervention for persons with disability; and the food distribution was not only limited to urban centers but did also not put into consideration specific targeting of Older persons and Persons with Disabilities.
1 The Daily Monitor, 4,200 companies close over Covid-19 lockdown 22 nd April 2020
2 The Independent, 4.4 million Ugandans could lose jobs due to corona virus-Report, 14th May 2020
- The intention to target young children and pregnant and lactating mothers with nutritious supplements like powdered milk was not successful and there isn’t enough food items to all the intended beneficiaries.
- There has been an increase in the inaccessibility of medical services leading to death in many instances. This has especially affected pregnant women, children who are due for immunisation, older persons, persons with disability, and patients with chronic and debilitating illnesses.
- There has been an increase in the cases of violence against women, older persons, children and PWDs. There has been breakdown of family support system which has for many years been the basic support system for vulnerable persons in Uganda and Africa in general. All this has resulted into increased vulnerability, abuse and violence against vulnerable groups.
- Domestic violence has also increased during this period affecting mostly the women and children. The enormity of GBV during the covid-19 shutdown has been noted by many agencies. The media and police in Uganda have reported an increase in the number of cases of GBV in the country during the lockdown period. For instance, the Independent, a local magazine on 16th April 2020 reported that police had recorded 328 cases of domestic violence, as well as 102 cases of child neglect have been recorded by police since the COVID-19 lockdown
Effects of COVID 19 on the work environment .
Face to face dialogues and meetings with big numbers of people have been suspended indefinitely. The Presidential directives required that all people stop going to office, and as much as possible work at home. A few organisations have allowed their staff to work in shifts, if they have a sticker allowing them to drive, or if their workers can walk to office. Generally, organisations are adopting and fully utilizing online platforms to be able to carry on their work. For organisations that provide practical support to clients or beneficiaries, activities such as legal aid have slowed and in some instances stopped completely. This is due to support services such as court operations were suspended by the Chief Justice of Uganda following the presidential suspension of public gatherings of more than 5 people. The courts have tried to adopt to online court hearing, but this is a new phenomenon to vulnerable groups and even then, even if facilities were arranged within office settings for them to be able to participate in the court sessions. The suspension of public transport further incapacitated such interventions. The online court operations were also limited to urgent Criminal matters
The Independent, 16 April 2020 accessed at independent.co.ug and executions only. COVID-19 also led to the suspension of some projects thereby affecting the project staff. Where possible and practical for different organisations, they reach their clients and beneficiaries and provide legal advice or counselling through toll free lines and partnering with police to support especially vulnerable groups arrested for violation of the presidential directives especially the curfew as they strive to survive in these circumstances. Also, some organisations are carrying out sensitisation through the bulk SMS information system, social media platforms and media participation and engagements. In terms of social protection advocacy, the Uganda Social Protection Platform (USPP) members have participated in various online discussions such as webinars and live twitter, and engaged in media discussions on TV and radio together with other stakeholders.